|Christopher J. Helvey|
Christopher J. Helvey is a graduate of the Spalding University MFA in Writing program. His fiction and poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Kentucky Monthly, Idiolect, Kudzu, Nougat, The Chaffin Journal, Ace Weekly, Kentucky Blue, Modern Mountain Magazine, Minnetonka Review, Issue 4, and Best New Writing, 2007. On the Boulevard is his poetry collection and his novel, Purple Adobe, is available from AuthorHouse or fine bookstores everywhere. He lives and writes in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Chris: Jan, I began Trajectory because I believed there were voices crying in the wilderness, voices that deserved to be heard, but were not. Based on my experience, many of the current literary reviews and journals are published by universities or colleges. And, quite frequently, their first readers are students. Often, being quite young, they see the world far differently from a writer who is over 40 or 50 or 60. In my opinion, we need more voices, not fewer. We need those who are just starting their journey for their new and fresh ways of looking at life, but we also need those who have already traveled many miles. I wanted to read and print stories, creative nonfiction, and poems from new voices, new voices with experience.
Chris: My vision is for Trajectory to be an independent source of some of the finest new fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction in the world today. My mission is to give print to works that illuminate life for us in new, exciting, unique ways. Our primary goal is really quite simple, to keep publishing as long as there are fine new stories and poems to print and people who want to read them.
Chris: Our staff is really small. The real workhorse of the team is our graphic designer/layout artist, Myra Summers of Word Management. Myra and I have worked together on dozens of projects over the years and she has always done a great job. Over the issues I’ve had a few readers, but I end up making most of the final cuts. My wife, Gina, is one of the world’s really great proofreaders. She also is a good reader, with an instinct for what works and for what doesn’t.
Chris: At some point in the not too distant future I hope to expand the imprint into book publishing. I’ll start small, working with one or two writers whose work I admire and whose artistic integrity I admire. I do hope to put more poems and stories online, but only as a supplement to the print journal. I still believe there is a place, granted a smaller one, for printed journals, reviews, and chapbooks.
Chris: What’s the old line about pornography, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” Well, that’s the way I am about a story or poem. If it speaks to me, resonates at some deep, meaningful level, then it stands a good chance of being accepted. I have no set agenda and am willing to forgive many missteps, but cliches, blatant sentimentality, cardboard characters and wooden dialogue are usually deadly. Often, I know within a few lines if a story or poem is not going to work. As Sena Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife and head of the Spalding University M.F.A in Writing Program (where I earned my degree) says, “You don’t have to eat the whole egg to know it is rotten.”
Chris: Except for requiring all submissions to be hard copy (I’m an older guy and my eyes can’t take too much reading on the monitor) we are extremely flexible. We are always reading and have no limits on subject matter or length. We are contantly looking for poems, stories, creative nonfiction, and even b&w art or photos. If I could whisper in the ears of all writers I’d say “submit, submit, submit.” No journal or review is ever going to take the work stuck in a drawer or in your computer. To those who submit to Trajectory I’d say “if you get rejected, try again–with a better story or poem.”
Chris: I dip into several as time permits. Recently I’ve read from Chicago Review, Alligator Juniper, Bayou, Kudzu, New Laurel, and New Southerner.
Chris: Getting enough really fine submissions, especially stories. It is so frustrating to know that all over the world there are great stories [just sitting] in files, on shelves, in computers. I know it takes time to submit and, of course, there is that old fear of rejection, but come on–take a shot, or two, or three!
Chris: When I read a story as an editor, the first thing I look for is a unique voice, one that I haven’t read before, one that stands out. However, this voice must be under control. That is, the writer must be able to control the storyline and keep the readers interest. An awful lot of minor flaws (misplaced commas) can be forgiven if I sense a voice and the proper degree of control. Instant turn-offs are trying to be too cute, cliches, sex or violence that is not an integral part of the story, too long a wind up (a lot of writers have a terrible time getting to the story line, causing the readers to give up before the story really takes off). The first paragraph, or at most the first page, is critical. Editors get so many submissions that they simply don’t have the luxury of devoting time to a story that fails to quickly engage. And, of course, closing the story strongly is always critical.
Jan: What trends are you seeing in the work published in this anthology?
Chris: The most noticeable trend I see with Best New Writing is the ever-increasing number of high quality international submissions. We have had some truly powerful stories from England, Canada, Israel, India, and Africa. I think that being able to showcase some of these fine stories is a tremendous infusion into the American literary scene. I’m delighted to be able to play a small part.
Chris: To find one truly wonderful story or poem, and to know that I can help share it with the world.
Chris: I’m not sure about “most useful advice.” I expect it has come from reading other journals and seeing what they do and how they do it. The advice I chose to ignore was “Don’t start a literary journal.” Another piece of advice I’ve ignored to date is to “sell advertising.” I’m not fundamentally opposed to advertising; I’ve just chosen to go another route.
Jan: I’ve talked with writers who submit work to journals that they’ve never taken the time to read or examine. Often they submit work so far removed from the work a particular journal publishes, and then they wonder why it’s rejected. Writers need to support journals they admire so those journals survive long enough to discover and publish their work. How can one submit work to Trajectory? And how can someone subscribe to Trajectory?